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Update on Belarus

12 January 2011

At least twenty five opposition activists and journalists, including a number of presidential candidates, remain in KGB prisons without adequate access to medical attention, lawyers or family.

Three weeks on from the violent dispersal of a peaceful post-election rally, of particular immediate concern is the physical condition of a number of the imprisoned presidential candidates who, victims of violence and ill-treatment at the hands of the police, are known to be severely injured or ill, and at least one on hunger strike.

In a letter to President Lukashenko of 21 December 2010, the Socialist International had conveyed its deep concern over these developments, calling for “the immediate and unconditional release of all those detained and an end to the use of violence against and abuse of those citizens exercising their democratic rights”. In the same letter, the President was urged to take urgent action as well on the matter of irregularities reported during the vote count which requires investigation.

The current prisoners of conscience include, amongst others: Mikalai Statkevich (from the SI member BSDP-NH), Alyaksei Mihalevich, Vladimir Nyaklyayeu, Andrei Sannikov, Natalya Radzina, Irina Khalip, Sergei Vaznyak, Alexander Feduta, Pavel Sevyarynets, Anatol Lyabedka, Vladimir Kobets, Zmitser Bandarenka, Alyaksandr Arastovych, Sergei Martseleu and Anastasia Polazhanka. Presidential candidate Vital Rymasheusky has since been released, however the charges against him remain. All are facing the politically motivated charge of ‘organizing mass disorder’ and if convicted would carry long-term jail sentences.

On 7 January 2011, in a further letter to President Lukashenko, the Socialist International reiterated its call for an end to the continued imprisonment and the release of leaders and members of the political parties and organisations arbitrarily arrested, highlighting concern over those in urgent need of medical treatment and whose continued detention seriously endangers their health. The SI also emphasised that “our International concurs with all those in Belarus who share the view that only through real and effective democracy, in which citizens’ voices are truly heard, can prosperity and stability be achieved in your country”.

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